Simon McHendry is executive assistant manager of the Langham Place hotel in Hong Kong. He tells Janet Harmer why moving to Asia has been one of his best career decisions
Why did you initially go to work in Hong Kong in 2004? I joined Langham Place in Mongkok, Hong Kong, as a pre-opening team member. I came here because I really wanted to experience the Asian way of hospitality. It's one of the best decisions I have made.
How did your career in the UK prepare you for working overseas? In the UK I worked, and managed teams, with colleagues from different backgrounds and diverse cultures. The experience helped me easily adapt to the working environment and culture overseas.
What does your current job entail? My main role is to manage the overall rooms operations, which include housekeeping, guest service, safety and front office operations. On a day-to-day basis I manage a team of 230 colleagues and engage with our guests to ensure we are meeting their expectations. We have a great team here and fantastic results, but I need to ensure I allocate resources correctly so that our service delivery is consistent. We have to continually raise the bar and push boundaries.
We value a bottom-up management style at the hotel, so we have an open community culture in which we involve all of the staff. We take their feedback very seriously. A lot of our signature touches have been created by the innovative thinking of colleagues. We constantly brainstorm new ideas and practices that help enhance the service and products. We always strive to keep what we're doing nice and fresh so there's always something new in the hotel for our guests.
What are the key challenges of working in Hong Kong? There are no real challenges working here. I love, and am very passionate about, my job here.
What are the best aspects of living and working in Hong Kong? Hong Kong is an international city where East meets West. The cultural diversity is probably the best aspect of living and working here.
You've also spent some time working in Beijing. How did that compare with Hong Kong? The most obvious difference is the size and population of the two places. In terms of hospitality, the industry is still pretty new in Beijing and therefore training, from the basics upwards, is crucial.
What are the key aspects of the hospitality industry in Hong Kong that you think the British industry could learn from? Of course, as a Brit, I would say we British do hospitality as well as anyone, but if I had to highlight something about the industry here it would be the attention to detail. Hotels in Hong Kong always go that extra mile to serve the guest and make sure they have a great experience and memory.
How easy is it for British citizens now to find jobs in the hospitality industry in Hong Kong? There are always exciting opportunities available in the market as long as the candidate's background and experiences match the job requirements. Any candidate should be able to tell potential employers what they can bring to the company with their past experiences from the UK or elsewhere abroad.
Do you work alongside many British expats? Not at the moment. It would be nice to have a few fellow Brits. However, I am working with expats from other countries such as Australia, France, Switzerland and Thailand.
Do you think your career has flourished more than it would have done in the UK? I am very happy with what I have achieved so far. I started my career at the Langham London and it helped me develop excellent knowledge and management skills in the luxury hospitality industry that have been crucial for my career development.
Is there anywhere else in the world you would like to work? Of course. I'd love to work in other international cities like New York, Sydney or any other city in Asia-Pacific.
Do you intend to return to work in the UK? Yes… probably when I want to retire, though. I want to explore different hospitality practices in other parts of the world before I return to the UK.
CV Simon McHendry
â- 2008-11 Director of sales and marketing, Langham Place, Beijing Capital Airport
â- 2006-08 Director of sales - corporate, Langham Place, Mongkok, Hong Kong
â- 2004-06 Front office manager, Langham Place, Mongkok, Hong Kong
â- 2002-04 Front-of-house manager, Hilton London Hyde Park
â- 1995-2002 Assistant manager front office, the Langham, London (formerly the Langham Hilton)